Dongguan, China: Profiting from a shocking late Kuang Yang meltdown, Tong Yang claimed a remarkable come-from-behind win in the 14th Faldo Series Shenzhen Championship.
After a stunning turnaround over the closing four holes of the Rose-Poulter Course at Mission Hills’ Dongguan complex, it was Tong who emerged triumphant by the narrowest of margins in the second leg of the 2019-20 Faldo Series Asia season.
With victory seemingly in the bag, the wheels came off for Kuang, who entered the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking event on a high after his exploits at the Volvo China Open a fortnight earlier when he became the second youngest player to make the cut in a European Tour event.
Seven strokes ahead of his playing partner after a birdie on hole 14, success seemed a formality for the much-heralded 14-year-old Shenzhen schoolboy.
However, Kuang then imploded, a double-bogey at the par-five 15th being followed by a triple-bogey seven at 16, where Tong made birdie to close the deficit to just one.
While Tong safely parred the final two holes, Kuang was unable to halt his inexorable slide, signing off with back-to-back bogeys for a round of 78 and a 54-hole aggregate of 222.
Thanks to a one-under 35 on the back nine, Tong carded a closing 73 to improbably end one stroke in front of his compatriot and on top of the standings in the Boys’ Under-16 category as well as overall.
Speaking from New York where he was commentating on Brooks Koepka’s tense triumph over Dustin Johnson at the PGA Championship, Sir Nick Faldo said: “As was the case here on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park, what an incredible finish to the Faldo Series Shenzhen Championship at Mission Hills.
“Once again it goes to show how difficult it is to be the front-runner … and how quickly fortunes can turn around in golf, especially when the pressure is on over the closing stretch in the final round.
“I’m sure both Tong Yang and Kuang Yang will have learned a lot from the experience they’ve just been through. It will stand them in good stead for future challenges.”
Tong will now have a chance to meet Faldo in person when he lines up in the 14th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by the six-time Major champion at Vietnam’s Laguna Lăng Cô in March, 2020.
Also qualifying by winning their respective age-group categories at the Faldo Series Shenzhen Championship were Liu Dingze (Boys’ Under-21), Hong Kong’s Sophie Han (Girls’ Under-16) and the Chinese Taipei duo of Lo Cheung-yuan (Boys’ Under-18) and Tai Yu-shan (Girls’ Under-21).
Like Kuang, Sun Yilin narrowly missed out, despite posting a final-day four-under-par 68, the best round of the tournament.
Sun was 10 shots behind Kuang at the start of the last day and fell further adrift with bogeys at two of the opening three holes. From there, though, he played flawless golf, covering the remaining 15 holes in six-under to finish level with Kuang, just one shot shy of forcing a play-off.
The 2019-20 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.